Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Ozawa’s image headache

January 29, 2010

Shadow Shogun, The Destroyer and Backroom Fixer.

Japan’s ruling party kingpin, Ichiro Ozawa, has earned several less-than-flattering nicknames for an approach to politics that has seen him shaking up government in the country for decades, culminating in his party’s historic election victory last August.


Ozawa’s tough, combative image was reinforced when he vowed in public to fight against prosecutors after three of his current and former aides were arrested on suspicion of misreporting political funds. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said he would stay in his key position as the Democratic Party’s secretary-general.

But Ozawa’s tone seems to have changed slightly recently as voter support  for the party has increasingly eroded due to the deepening scandal, ahead of a mid-year election .

I was at his news conference after Ozawa was questioned by prosecutors for more than four hours over the scandal. He appeared his usual determined and confident self, but seemed to choose words carefully to avoid provoking either prosecutors or the Japanese media.

 ”I told everything I knew today. They (the prosecutors) may not be fully satisfied, but they listened to me seriously,” Ozawa told the news conference.  “I will continue to cooperate as they conduct a fair investigation.”   

The 67-year-old Ozawa also adopted a somewhat humble tone a couple of days later, vowing his continued cooperation with investigators and saying he was ready to speak regularly to reporters, whom he often prefers to either dodge or chastise.

In an effort to soften his image, Ozawa, who has refrained of late from exclusive interviews, appeared on the cover of a monthly magazine, smiling and wearing a light blue turtleneck sweater instead of his usual sombre suit. Chatting with a well-known female TV personality, he revealed his views on women — he thinks they are “generous” and “consoling” — and how he cried as a child when he read a Japanese traditional love story. But there was nary a question nor a comment about the scandal.  

And what would he want to do if he were born again?  “Maybe not be a politician. For example, maybe venture business,” Ozawa said. “If  I  worked at a venture business as much as I do (as a politician) now, I could probably earn a lot of money, maybe like Bill Gates,” he laughed.

So, what’s your image of Ozawa?

Photo credit: Yuriko Nakao/REUTERS

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